Why Do Women Make Less Than Men?

It seems like every month there’s another study out about how women earn less than men in Canada. Critics say it is a myth, arguing that in their workplace their female coworkers are making the same.

But the numbers don’t lie. Women earn less.

In Canada, women earn 26 per cent less than men do. That means they make 74 cents for every dollar a man earns. The biggest gap is in Alberta, where statistics show that women make a staggering 42.5 per cent less than men. This is even worse for racialized and Indigenous women in Canada. Racialized women earn 55 cents to every white man’s dollar and Indigenous women earn 46 cents.

Here are some of the reasons women make less than men.

Female Work is Undervalued

In Canada, according to research women are paid less than men in the vast majority of occupations. Part of the reason? For decades female-dominated work has been undervalued and underpaid. Women are most likely to be found in occupations such as social assistance, educational services, clerical positions and food and accommodation, all of which pay less than male-dominated occupations. What’s worse, is that studies show when women start to move into a male-dominated field, the pay actually drops. 

Women Dominate Part-Time and Precarious Work

Women are far more likely to work part-time or in precarious positions than men. In fact, about three-quarters of part-time workers in Canada are women. There are several reasons including child or family care obligations or taking on most of the domestic responsibility. Women also make up the majority of minimum wage workers – one-third of working Canadian women make less than $15 per hour. 


When women start a family, it hurts them in the workplace. They’re giving up a salary, promotions and potential wage growth at crucial moments in their career.  With a major lack of affordable childcare, women are forced to stay out of the workforce longer or work part-time to take care of their children. It’s also the reason many women choose to avoid high-pressure jobs or jobs that demand long hours.


We’ve seen through movements such as the monumental #MeToo campaign that facing sexual harassment and violence has had an impact on an overwhelming amount women in the workplace. Not only does this create a hostile work environment, but it also causes women to lose out on promotions, experience and even being forced to quit.

Lack of Pay Transparency

There have been multiple calls for legislation to have more transparency in the workplace when it comes to pay. Employers need to be held accountable by making pay rates public and ensuring that women are paid equally for equal work. Legislation should enforce that. 

While it’s true that women have made progress in pay over the last few decades, they shouldn’t have to tolerate making less than a male coworker, being punished for having children or an employer that is discriminatory. They shouldn't be making less just because there is no one advocating for their rights at work. Every woman should be able to earn a fair wage.

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